Devolution of power to the provinces is only as good as what the provincial governments themselves choose to make of it, and it is becoming increasingly clear that despite being the province that supposedly gave up the most revenue under the National Finance Commission Award, Punjab is determined to make the best of its new-found autonomy.
This past week, for instance, Punjab has begun a new skills training programme that will train over 135,000 women in the province — a trade that will, in turn, allow them to earn a living on their own. The province has also sought the help of the British government in recruiting and training 45,000 new teachers.
These are worthy initiatives, but we applaud them not just for the effects that they will have, but the vision behind them. The Punjab chief minister is not just a good manager; he appears to have a clear vision for what Punjab’s competitive advantage is and has devoted his government’s resources towards enhancing those core strengths.
Hence, for instance, the province has invested heavily in improving its agricultural infrastructure and road network. But far more than farms and well-paved roads, the chief minister appears to believe that Punjab’s biggest strengths can be its nearly 100 million people.
To design the Punjab government’s education initiative, he became the only provincial chief minister to hire McKinsey & Company, the prestigious consulting firm, and the resulting improvements in Punjab’s educational achievement outcomes have been widely praised.
Punjab is offering its people a path to the middle class and other provinces appear to have begun to take notice. The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has decided to make education and health a priority and even Balochistan has begun to focus on investing in its human capital.
It appears that Punjab has successfully goaded the rest into competing in this game, in which the only winners are the people of Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2013.